By Samantha Mathewson
South Africa recently instated a year-long ban on leopard hunting in 2016 after conservationists convinced officials that the lack of an accurate leopard count makes hunting the cats – perhaps a seriously endangered population – highly irresponsible.
The Department of Environmental Affairs said it was acting on recommendations from South Africa's scientific authority, which had suggested that actions be taken to ensure the species' survival. This ban will be reviewed at the end of the year.
"We just don't know how leopards are faring in South Africa," Guy Balme, a conservationists from environmental group Panthera, said in a statement. "They're secretive, mainly nocturnal, solitary and range over huge areas."
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) allows South Africa 150 permits each year for the trophy hunting of leopards destined for export. Selling these permits generates some $375 million for the country every year, according to the environment ministry.
However, conservation activists say updates on population numbers and carrying capacity are needed before hunting can be re-instated.
"It's important to ensure that any wildlife trade we do is sustainable," Kelly Marnewick, carnivore conservation manager at the Environmental Wildlife Trust, added. "If we can't do that, it's highly problematical. We need a trade ban until we can get to that."
Currently, the main threats to South Africa's population of leopards are the mismanagement of trophy hunting and the illegal trade of fur. In fact, dignitaries from South Africa's Zulu community traditionally wear animal skins - specifically leopard fur - for ceremonies.
A video detailing the year-long leopard hunting ban can be found online http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/19532/20160126/south-africa-bans-leopard-hunting-2016.htm